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FRANCE EXPLAINED

MAP: Where are the ‘happiest’ areas of France?

Despite the misery caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the French have been getting happier - with nearly 80 percent now describing themselves as happy or very happy. Here's where you are most likely to meet a cheery Frenchman or Frenchwoman.

French people drinking wine and looking happy
The French are getting happier, according to a new survey. (Photo by MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP)

The French are not exactly known for their joie de vivre. Anyone living here, especially in Paris, will admit that the grumpy stereotype of the complaining Frenchman has at least some kernel of truth. 

Yet according to the annual Baromètre des Territoires, which was first published in 2018, the French the happiest they have been since the survey began.

READ ALSO ‘In France, we don’t make smalltalk about the weather, we complain instead’

The 10,000 person survey, a representative sample drawn from 12 regions, was conducted by Elabe and the Institut Montaigne.

It showed that:

  • 78 percent (compared to 70 percent in 2018) of French people said they were happy, with 38 percent describing themselves as  very happy;
  • 70 percent (66 percent in 2018) of French people said they had a healthy work-life balance;
  • 57 percent (47 percent in 2018) of French people said their were optimistic about their futures. 

The study also examined respondents’ attitudes towards their local area. It found that 66 percent of French people believed that their communes were nice places to live – but it also uncovered major variation between regions. 

Residents of the Pays de la Loire were most likely to have a positive opinion of the state of their region and describe themselves as optimistic for the future.

Below maps the percentage of people who describe themselves as either happy or very happy, with the dark blue showing the happiest regions. The island of Corsica was not included in the survey.

The survey also maps where people are most likely to be 'very happy' - data for very happy was not included for the southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.

The survey also asked people about more specific topics such as their attitude to their local area and fear of crime.

In the northern region  of Hauts-de-France, 35 percent of people said they are too worried to let their children roam freely outside during the daytime. Alongside residents of the greater Paris Île de France region, those in the Hauts-de-France feel the least safe. 

People living in Île de France were the most likely to answer that they would like to leave their region if given the chance - while residents of Brittany were the most likely to remain. 

Health, purchasing power, security and the environment were the top concerns of the people surveyed. Respondents were keen to turn the page on the pandemic, with 67 percent believing that we talk about it too much.

But there was one result that conformed with the French reputation for gloom - the majority (60 percent) of respondents had a negative outlook for the future of France as a whole and believed themselves to be living in an unjust society  (68 percent).

However, both of these figures are ten percentage points down from when the Baromètre des Territoires was launched back in 2018 - at the peak of the gilets jaunes crisis. 

Six out of ten French people said the country's economic model was not adapted to facing climate change and three quarters said that we must change the way we live to overcome this challenge. 

Member comments

  1. That first map should be the sum of happy+very happy. As it stands at the moment, the suggestion is that the Grand Est is not happy (=unhappy). This is true, but misleading, when you find out that they are ‘very happy’.

    The second chart should remain the same.

    1. I agree. I was a little surprised, living in the Champagne-Ardennes. Luckily I then saw the second map, and appreciate your added comments.

  2. I thought from previous surveys that Agen 47 in the Lot-et-Garonne was the happiest town in France? Is it no longer and why ?

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READER QUESTIONS

Don’t ask Google, ask us: Why is France in Mali?

In this mini series, The Local answers common questions that comes up when you start typing questions with "France" or "the French" into the Google search engine.

French soldiers in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane.
French soldiers in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane. Photo: Florent Vergnes/AFP

Why is France . . . in Mali?

You might not immediately associate the west African country with France, but in fact France has had a major military presence there since 2013 and ‘why is France in Mali’ is the third most popular suggestion from Google when we asked ‘why is France’.

Commonly referred to in the French media by its army name of Opération Barkhane, the French military operations in Mali have been the source of some controversy and political tension for several years, and in February 2022 president Emmanuel Macron announced the end of operations in Mali and the withdrawal of French troops.

Mali, in West Africa, is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world and also forms part of the region known as Sahel, the region of North Africa which includes countries such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

Since 2012 Sahel has been at the centre of armed conflict with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaida and Islamic State and since 2013 French troops have been taking part in an international operation against the extremists. It is centred in Mali because of the estimated 2,000 fighters in the region, more than 1,000 are from Mali.

France has historic links with Mali – until 1960 is was a French colony – but the French military, the largest in the EU, takes part in many international operations – it has been engaged in nine countries since 2011.

Since the beginning of the operation, 52 French soldiers have died, about 8,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and 2 million were displaced by the fighting.

In June 2021, the French government decided that the army would progressively leave the country, a withdrawal that was accelerated in 2022 after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta in Mali. 

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